“Avoid” is a strong word.
To be sure, I try not to use terms that I consider to be concrete or absolute in application as they often come back to roost in the way of criticism if/when things change. And in fantasy, things most certainly do change – often. So for purposes of this article, read the term “avoid” as meaning those players that I’m not seeking to add to my fantasy roster unless their relative value just can’t be ignored any longer. Dare I say that we as owners should all have that mindset when drafting. Rarely should a player really be avoided unless he violates some value checkbox in the form of domestic violence, drug usage, etc. Even then, most coaches still only significantly lower a player’s value rather than avoid him altogether. The choice is yours and yours alone as to how you wish to approach players that fit this mold.
As a fantasy coach, I continue to evolve my strategy and tactics to ensure that they align with current trends in the NFL. Few would argue that running backs are well down in value when compared to wide receivers. That fact isn’t even really up for debate. In the past decade, find a time when the top seven players off the board are all projected to be wide receivers; DLF’s most recent ADP numbers suggest just that. But regardless of position, there are players that I’ve found are just so unreliable or carry so little intrigue for me, that I strongly prefer to avoid them for as long as possible. There’s nothing I hate more than having a player clogging my roster that I can’t play on Sundays yet can’t drop either. Fantasy purgatory is a label we should hope to avoid in all of our players. Get too many of these on your roster and you hamstring yourself for years to come.
I don’t want to bore you with a lot of commentary here on why I’m writing this article or go too deep into my analysis of just why a player does or does not appear on this list. I know you seek information to use in your draft(s) and the quicker you can have an individual’s thoughts, process it and move on, the better. So let’s get to the list!
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Here are 10 players, in no particular order, that I’m avoiding unless they fall far below their currently projected ADP:
Eddie Lacy, RB GB
Last year, Lacy practically fell off the fantasy landscape altogether, at least relative to his early season hype, finishing as the RB30 (or so) in PPR leagues. Yes, there’s been talk of a new training regimen and the plus-sized runner is now appearing more cut and shaped for 2016. I’m not buying it and nor am I risking a selection of Lacy anywhere near his RB8 status. This is as much an indictment on running backs as it is on Lacy, but I’d much rather place my chips on another number. Green Bay has been, and should continue to be in 2016, a passing offense. A stronger Eddie Lacy I don’t believe translates into a significantly more productive runner. For what it’s worth, I’ve never been on the Lacy bandwagon and I’m not climbing aboard now.
Ameer Abdullah, RB DET
Another back that I’ve never seen the value in, including during the height of the Abdullah ferver following his selection in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Last year’s RB43 is currently carrying a RB28 ADP value, but regardless, I’m not touching him. I don’t like smaller backs with the hope that they can carry the load for a team in need. In PPR leagues, Abdullah does have value and I’ll concede that his upside could be great, but I could say that about a lot of players. When I’m up against an opponent on Sunday and I see Abdullah starting across from me, there’s no fear. And that says something! I’ll allow another coach of play poke-and-hope during the draft.
CJ Anderson, RB DEN
Here we go again! In fantasy, hope springs eternal. Anderson is carrying a RB13 ADP and I’d rather floss with razor wire than risk a selection anywhere near that ranking. I just have every confidence that the experience would be the same. Is it Anderson, Ronnie Hillman or Devontae Booker? Who knows? What we do know is that Kubiak loves a large stable of runners and Anderson hasn’t eclipsed 180 carries EVER. Now with Booker in the mix, do you really think that 2016 will be the year that breaks that trend?
Demaryius Thomas, WR DEN
This is a tough one for me as I love this big receiver. The problem is that Peyton Manning is gone, Mark Sanchez is the projected starter and DT saw a lack of fantasy production in 2015, to the tune of 300 fewer yards and a nearly 50% decrease in touchdowns (from 11 to 6). This is one of those cases that “avoid” is too strong of a word, but I’m applying it here because I know that every other fantasy coach in my leagues will be ranking Thomas far above my placement. Thomas currently carries a WR14 ranking and he’d have to drop closer to the WR30 before I’m willing to take that risk. He’s still young but there’s been too much change for me to get excited about his future until he shows me he can overcome.
Laquon Treadwell, WR MIN
Treadwell was my favorite receiver coming out of the draft for much of the time leading up to it. Truth be told he still occupies my WR1 spot for rookies, but I see it as shared with Josh Doctson. The problem here is that Treadwell is just that, a rookie. Combine that with the fact that Minnesota hasn’t shown they can create fantasy production from a wide receiver in some time. Teddy Bridgewater appears to be an upside quarterback but there’s far too much risk to assign a rookie flag along with a system flag and still have enough to justify a WR15 ranking. I’m avoiding Treadwell due to risk-reward unless he falls closer to the WR40 in a new draft. I’d much rather have a couple years of experience and productivity from another player.
Breshad Perriman, WR BAL
I’ve seen his name popping up often in trade executions and discussions. I believed Perriman had the upside of Julio Jones but that bloom fell from the rose long ago. While he did escape a monumental scare in 2016, I can’t ignore the trend and I won’t be the one selecting him on the possibility that he finally starts living up to expectations. He’s a perfect fit for Joe Flacco and the Raven offense in my opinion but there comes a point where a player is largely off my list as a draft candidate and he’s there. Multiple knee injuries and “promise” are not items I care to invest in.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE TB
I was never high on the tight end as he emerged from the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. But he started flashing late in 2015 and the path seemed to be paved for him in ’16. The tight end position in fantasy is largely over drafted as is without reaching for players that have dug-in to an approach that won’t grant any favor. ASJ seems to be a player on the fast-track out of Tampa Bay and those mediocre flashes from 2015 aren’t nearly enough for him to support his TE11 ADP. He’s as close to a complete “avoid” as you can get on my list.
Melvin Gordon, RB SD
This one hurts, badly. I wrestled with the Todd Gurley/Melvin Gordon ranking as they both entered the NFL Draft before ultimately believing Gurley, for all his talent, couldn’t be over-penalized due to a single ACL injury. But I also believed that Gordon had what it takes to be a producer at the NFL level. My one knock on Gordon was in his his wasted movements or indecision that would cost him yardage. Those combined with running behind a huge offensive line at Wisconsin may have inflated his numbers. Neither of these facts were things I felt would greatly reduce his upside. Unfortunately, what I saw in 2015 was a maximization of his weaknesses with no benefit from his strengths as a runner. He was terrible and so much so that I don’t believe 2016 will be drastically different. I’m rooting for him to be all that I thought he could be but his product was so surprisingly different than his expectation that he’s off my list for all intents and purposes.
Nelson Agholor, WR PHI
In this business, you have to pat yourself on the back for a job well done as others surely don’t. At the same time, you also need to stay humble and have a short-term memory as things can change so quickly. I was squarely in the “all out” camp on Agholor as he was drafted into Chip Kelly’s system in 2015. I avoided him in every draft, rookie and inaugural alike. To me, he compared favorably (and that’s a bad thing) with other recent USC receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. In fact, I had him third on that list. Therefore, if the other two haven’t produced, to make a selection of Agholor was akin to saying that system is the determining factor and I wasn’t about to go there. I see nothing in Agholor for me to risk a selection, even at his current WR51 ranking. He’s another player that is squarely off my list.
Clive Walford, TE OAK
I don’t like tight ends in immature systems. I don’t like tight ends that may not even be the best player at the position on their own teams. I don’t like tight ends that limp into productivity. The tight end position is one of those during the draft that you can almost avoid if you don’t acquire a top 10 talent as the draft unfolds. A selection of Walford will likely be made along with the line “well, he’s got a chance in an offense with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper“. While this is true, don’t fall for it anywhere close to his TE16 ADP. If you don’t get a top tight end, go for upside with other names while being quick on the trigger during the season to get a Gary Barnidge or Will Tye type of player as they rise from anonymity. Every year has a couple names from this position that do.
I hope you enjoyed this quick look at 10 players I’ll be (mostly) avoiding in 2016. Look for another piece shortly that targets 10 below-the-radar players.
Follow me on Twitter: @DLF_Jeff
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